Hawaii & Alaska
Many stream banks within Pohakea Watershed experience erosion, one of the many problem areas that the recently approved management plan aims to address. — Photo courtesy Central Maui Soil and Water Conservation District

HI -Work in watershed aims to curb ocean pollution downstream

A watershed management plan that addresses the land, gulches and gullies that run from the West Maui Mountains to Maalaea Bay received final approval this week to support the next steps in protecting and restoring water quality in the area.

Soil loss associated with unmaintained roads within Pohakea Watershed is shown. A recently approved management plan aims to improve water quality in Maalaea Bay by better managing the watershed areas above it. — Photo courtesy Central Maui Soil and Water Conservation District

The Central Maui Soil and Water Conservation District said that the Pohakea Watershed Plan was recently approved by the state Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch, which means that the projects within the watershed are eligible for funding.

“Land management plays an important role in maintaining healthy coastal waters,” the report says. “Coral reefs are important culturally, economically, and ecologically.”

Watershed planning efforts are coordinated by the Clean Water Branch’s Polluted Runoff Control Program, which has a mission to “protect and improve the quality of Hawaii’s water resources by preventing and reducing nonpoint source (NPS) pollution,” according to a news release.

“We are proud to support this project that enhances comprehensive stewardship of the Pohakea Watershed and facilitates the ability to utilize EPA funding to mitigate impacts to coastal waters,” said Program Manager Justine Nihipali. “The Pohakea Watershed Plan was developed to address land-based sources of pollution entering into Maalaea Bay.”


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Encompassing about 5,268 acres, the Pohakea Watershed extends from the summit of Hanaula at 4,616 feet of elevation in Mauna Kahalawai to the southeast where its gulches and gullies drain into the waters of Maalaea Bay.

In 2018, the nonprofit Maui Nui Marine Resource Council requested that Maui Environmental Consulting LLC conduct a study to investigate and address land-based sources of pollution within Maalaea Bay and Maalaea Harbor.

The study focused on erosion and sediment carried down by storm waters, according to the watershed plan. It also identified nutrient, pathogen or other pollutant sources, as well as any other land management practices that may be contributing to water quality degradation in the watershed.

The results of this study were compiled into the Pohakea Stormwater Management Plan. Several projects proposed in that plan have already been implemented, the report said.

The stormwater plan was then updated and expanded into a full-scale watershed management plan.

Considering the environment, economy and community, the Pohakea Watershed Plan aims to protect and restore water quality, especially in the face of runoff that often clouds the coastline when it rains or floods, the Soil and Water Conservation District said.

According to DOH and Integrated Water Quality Reports, the coastal waters within Pohakea watershed are listed as impaired for several parameters, including ammonium, turbidity, chlorophyll-a, enterococcus, total nitrogen, and nitrates and nitrites.

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